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Catalans defy Spain, turn out to vote

BARCELONA – Thousands of Catalans gathered at designated polling stations yesterday morning as they sought to defy Spanish authorities by voting in a banned independence referendum that has raised fears of unrest in the wealthy northeastern region.

The referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and raised fears of street violence as a test of will between Madrid and Barcelona plays out.

Civil Guard national police also streamed in a convoy through the streets of Barcelona in the early morning, but at dawn, there was no sign of either national or Catalan police enforcing a court order to lock down the polling stations.

Organizers smuggled ballot boxes into some stations before dawn in black plastic bags. Later, voters blocked doors at some sites in anticipation that police could try to enter and take over the stations. (Reuters)